Hyundai’s new-gen­er­a­tion i30 has al­ready been a huge suc­cess but the ad­di­tion of a first ever hot hatch to the line-up takes things to a whole new level.


There was a time, back in the Seven­ties, when 150mph+ top speeds and six-sec­ond sprints to 60mph were su­per­car stats. How times change. Back in the Seven­ties, the Hyundai Mo­tor Com­pany was still very new and only just pre­par­ing to launch its first ‘proper’ model, the Pony. Four decades on, Hyundai’s first hot hatch, the i30 N, has hit the streets and, boy, was it worth the wait. That sin­gle cap­i­tal let­ter may not mean much to you now but, trust us, it’s go­ing to. N is “Born in Namyang, honed at the Nür­bur­gring (or, more ap­pro­pri­ately still, per­haps Nord­schleife?). Nick­named the ‘Green Hell’, the in­fa­mous old F1 cir­cuit has be­come the world’s favourite test track and the place where Hyundai’s debu­tant per­for­mance model has been honed, re­lent­lessly.

Choose the right set­tings and the re­sul­tant pop­ping and crackle is ut­terly ir­re­sistible ”

And it shows. Hyundai has been get­ting se­ri­ous about per­for­mance for some time now. The rac­ing ver­sion of the i30 N, in the hands of the leg­endary Gabriele Tar­quini, cur­rently leads the 2018 World Tour­ing Car Cup. In the World Rally Cham­pi­onship, Bel­gium’s Thierry Neuville leads the chase for that ti­tle in a Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. This is top-level mo­tor­sport, a place where it’s im­pos­si­ble to hide – the place man­u­fac­tur­ers have al­ways gone when they’ve needed to show the world what they’re ca­pa­ble of. When per­for­mance is a part of a car’s DNA, it shines through in ev­ery model, and this is true of the i30 range (see op­po­site). The han­dling char­ac­ter­is­tics of ev­ery i30 have a gen­uinely sporty feel, for ex­am­ple, but the i30 N is a true prod­uct of Hyundai’s re­cent rac­ing suc­cess.

But it takes more than im­pres­sive per­for­mance to make a hot hatch. Be­fore you even turn the key, a con­tender in this sec­tor has to look good, too. The i30 N does. Lower than the stan­dard five-door hatch, it has a squat, pur­pose­ful pres­ence – es­pe­cially from a rear-three-quar­ter an­gle – and pulls off that magic hot hatch mix of ‘ex­tro­vert un­der­state­ment’ per­fectly: great wheels, nice de­tail­ing, strong colours.

So, it’s fast, and it’s hand­some. It also has man­ners. Ar­guably, the i30 N’s han­dling is its true ace card.

There are two ver­sions of the car: the i30 N (247bhp) and the i30 N Per­for­mance (271bhp), and while there is vir­tu­ally noth­ing to choose between them in terms of top speed and ac­cel­er­a­tion, the more pow­er­ful ver­sion comes with an elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled dif­fer­en­tial. It makes a dif­fer­ence over­all. Both cars pro­vide a full range of driv­ing modes, in­clud­ing ad­justable sus­pen­sion, throt­tle re­sponse and even sta­bil­ity con­trol set­tings. It all helps take the Per­for­mance to an­other level of driv­ing plea­sure. In fact, you can turn the sta­bil­ity con­trol off com­pletely, and if you think that sounds fa­mil­iar, you’d be right.

Much of this cus­tomi­sa­tion con­trol is op­er­ated via the steer­ing-wheel-mounted ‘N’ but­ton, yet an­other clue to the prove­nance of this first ever Hyundai hot hatch. Fea­tures such as switch­able trac­tion con­trol and a ‘mo­tor­sport mode’ are hall­marks of Al­bert Bier­mann, for­merly an en­gi­neer­ing guru at BMW M, and his in­flu­ence con­tin­ues here.

So, apart from the per­for­mance, the looks and the han­dling, the i30 N scores big in two more ways. What is of­ten miss­ing from a hot hatch – in­deed, is of­ten miss­ing from many more pow­er­ful, more ex­pen­sive per­for­mance cars – is noise. Proper, vis­ceral sound from the ex­haust. Not so with the i30 N. Choose the right com­bi­na­tion of set­tings via that magic ‘N’ but­ton, and the re­sul­tant pop­ping and crackle on both up­change and rev-matched over­run is ut­terly ir­re­sistible. Noth­ing in this class, at this price point, comes close. And then there’s the Hyundai war­ranty. The Korean firm is the only man­u­fac­turer to of­fer a full five-year guar­an­tee with un­lim­ited mileage on ev­ery model it makes, and the i30 N is no ex­cep­tion. Well, al­most. There is ac­tu­ally a ma­jor ex­cep­tion to Hyundai’s hot hatch war­ranty. This is peace of mind with a dif­fer­ence, be­cause the i30 N war­ranty also cov­ers the car for use on track days.

Now if that isn’t man­u­fac­turer con­fi­dence, we don’t know what is. And given just how good the i30 N is, this part of the pack­age could be what makes this new Hyundai prop­erly fa­mous.

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